Norwich cross-over soprano Emma dreams a dream
Cross-over soprano Emma Nuule, a former Norwich hospital cleaner, is realising her dream of being a professional singer but she also has a dream to help disadvantaged African children to perform, Jenny Seal reports.
When Emma (30), a committed Christian, sings at one of her sell-out classical concerts she makes a point of praising God for giving her the opportunity to perform and realise her dreams. Now the classical singer has her eyes fixed on another dream, to set up a performing arts school named ‘Praise and Perform’ for poor children in her adopted second home of Namibia.
Emma has recently released a new CD of well-known arias and West End classics, called ‘Songs to the Moon’. It features the kind of emotional pieces that suit her ‘spinto soprano’ voice with the dramatic climaxes that audiences at her concerts love.
With her career as a cross-over soprano blossoming Emma, who attends Norwich’s Alive Church, is always keen to tell her audiences about the humble origins of where it all began - crying in a hospital toilet.
Working as a hospital cleaner at the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital, Emma recalls: “I was praying in the toilet crying: ‘please Lord I want to sing, I don’t want to be cleaning any more’. Then I came out of the toilet and someone immediately said: “there’s this talent competition Emma; you should enter your video.”
Emma went on to win the global ‘Serco’s Got Talent’ competition performing the final in a hotel near London’s Trafalgar Square against competitors from America, India and Australia.
“He heard my prayer”, says Emma, smiling. “And that process is a massive reminder that God hears your heart and He can make anything into anything. I tell that story at my concerts. It takes a leap of faith to tell people that I was a cleaner. All this is because of that.”
During the summer of 2017, Emma closed the Royal Norfolk Show by singing the national anthem. She opened the Southburgh World Music Festival in July, performed a host of concerts around Norfolk and Suffolk, and is looking forward to performing with the Norwich Pops Orchestra at a New Year’s Day concert in St Andrew’s Hall.
Emma also helped Alive Church to design their ‘Beauty and the Beast’ inspired float which won the Lord Mayor’s Procession and she is now the Musical Director of the church’s production of the Disney classic to be performed at Easter next year.
“In the last few years I’ve felt very confident and determined to use my singing, as I feel it is my gift, to help other people,” says Emma. “I want to sing to touch people emotionally but also to use it as a platform to go for my big dream to set up a performing arts school in Namibia.”
Emma married her husband, Josef, who is originally from Namibia and who she describes as ‘her strength’ when she was 18. They have two sons, Taleni and Kleophas.
Emma and her family regularly visit the South West African country of Namibia. She recalls the moment that her dream began to be realised: “We have this piece of land in the most disadvantaged area of Windhoek in Namibia. Josef was joking around saying: ‘what shall we turn it into?’ And it came to me in a flash. I thought: “this is the performing school.”
Emma admits: “I know what it is going to be called; I know what it is going to be like; but I’m not at the stage yet where I know how to fundraise for it. I have moments of doubt about whether my goal will ever get there. How can I come up with so much money? But actually if I just look at how far God has brought me with my previous dream, it is possible.”
The Praise and Perform School is inspired by the Namibian children who Emma says: “just start dancing in the street and their foot movements are amazing.” The children finish school at 1pm and in the burning heat of the afternoons are often found playing football bare-footed in rocky mountainous terrain.
“I want to have a place where the children can come and produce music,” Emma says. “I picture a stage where they can do productions and where I can teach performance – singing, dancing, acting, painting, creative stuff, ways to express themselves; a place where the children can come and be creative.”
Regularly singing to appreciative audiences in the UK, wearing lavish dresses typical of an operatic performer, Emma is aware that she has to keep her eyes fixed on this Namibian dream.
“I feel like I need to focus on what God has put on my heart,” Emma says. “I love performing but I have to be careful not to get wrapped up in the whole glamour of it. That’s why I always try to remember to tell my testimony when I’m performing – how God has changed my life.”
The album, Songs to the Moon, is available to buy for £10 from Emma at email@example.com or from the Aladdin’s Cave shop on Magdalene Street in Norwich.
Please contact Emma if you would like to book her to perform, or can help her with her Namibian dream.
Pictured top, Norwich soprano Emma Nuule performs. Picture: Dave Montgomery.